How to nail that first sales call to a lead – rather than place a lead nail in its coffin

Posted on: August 25, 2019

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Category: B2B sales


How to nail that first sales call to a lead – rather than place a lead nail in its coffin

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The leads are rolling in from your latest Sopro campaign – and it’s time to pick up that phone and get that pipeline pumping.


There’s always a rush of anxiety-induced adrenaline as you dial that number to make that all-important first call.

Breathe deeply and place the phone back in its cradle.

This will help:

It’s our guide to the mistakes you need to avoid when trying to establish a sales relationship – and to what you do to get things off to a flying start.

Use cognitive bias – and avoid your own innate biases

Inevitably as the phone rings, it’s our own goals and emotions that surface. After all, there’s a lot riding on this.

However, it’s vital that you focus on the needs of your prospect not your own needs – and using an understanding of cognitive bias is the secret to achieving this.

Here’s a few to get under your belt.

The anchoring effect

What does it mean?

Ask someone if Gandhi was more than 114 years old when he died and you will end up with a much higher estimate of his age at death than if the anchoring question asked if he was more than 35.

Your prospect has an inbuilt bias to give more weight to the first piece of information they hear. And they then use this when forming later opinions.

How to use it

Make sure you understand exactly what your prospect needs as a solution. Highlight these features and benefits first – and they will then appreciate other less tangible benefits.

The ambiguity effect

What is it?

Your prospect’s tendency is to mistrust anything they find hard to understand.

How to use it

  • Simplify your proposition
  • Always try to tell a compelling story rather than get bogged down in details
  • And never forget to drop the jargon and excessive terminology

The bandwagon effect

What is it?

Your prospect has a susceptibility to trust social proof.

How to use it

Don’t shy away from using highly relevant case studies to bring things to life while gaining trust.

The confirmation bias

What is it?

Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot – but that anyone driving faster is a complete maniac?

Your prospect has a bias to prefer things that agree with their own preconceptions.


Spend time listening rather than talking.

This helps you understand what your prospect thinks – and then you can share information that confirms this.

The halo effect

What is it?

First impressions matter – celebrated author and speaker, Nicholas Boothman argues that the outcome of a sales call is often achieved or lost in the first 90 seconds.

How to use it

Your initial focus must be on building rapport and gaining trust. Hold back on that tendency to jump into the pitch.

Practical ways to avoid sales call mistakes

These are the five critical cognitive biases to understand if you are going to avoid making mistakes on that opening call.

Let’s look at how they come into play a little more practically.

1. Not doing your homework


Having done your research helps your prospect to feel valued and build rapport.

And this helps you overcome ambiguity, anchor your pitch and ensure you play to the confirmation bias.

Worse, not knowing about them leaves you guessing and filling in the gaps with talk about you and your company.

The problem is that talking too much doesn’t allow you to learn by listening: fortunately, preparation can help you here.

If you have some interesting questions prepared for your prospect it’s not going to be too long before you can seamlessly introduce your proposition, and be able to do so on their most relevant concerns.

2. Was that a pitch or a glitch?


Your opening call is about setting the stage for later in the sales pipeline, gleaning information and setting up a time to discuss things in more details.

This is top-line stuff so leave the pitch alone. The same study referred to above found that:

  • Anything more than a two-minute company overview greatly decreased the chance of a successful call
  • Sales people achieving the best results spend nearly 40% less time discussing technical topics and product features

3. Don’t lose the cues

    • HALO

You may have agreed a time for the call – but not every day pans out as we expect.

The simple fact is, it’s not always a good time to talk. Listen carefully for signs that your prospect sounds harassed, stressed or simply disinterested.

Acknowledge this, offer to rearrange and shine that halo.

4. Controlling or consulting?


The most successful sales professionals act as consultants rather than salespeople.

They understand a prospect’s needs and demonstrate, through social proof, exactly how they can add value to a specific business.

They remove ambiguity by focusing on what matters to the prospect – and then the path is clear to take things to the next stage.

Keep your presentation focused on the added value rather than the features and keep details to a minimum, trying instead to create a compelling story that is easier to buy into.

Successful sales conversation starters

If you take nothing else away here are the secrets to successful sales starters:

  • Develop trust and build rapport
  • Listen, responding and resist that urge to pitch
  • Tell stories not lists of benefits
  • Be prepared, ride that anxiety wave, avoid these mistakes and set those appointments.

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